For match photos, click on Photostream above left. For stats, click on the statistics tab. Manager reaction below
Arsenal fought back from two goals down to draw 2-2 with Liverpool in a thrilling Barclays Premier League clash at the Emirates Stadium.
Both sides knew defeat could harm their hopes of closing back up on the top four, but neither looked ready to settle for anything other than all three points in an open and entertaining match.
Liverpool took an early lead through Luis Suarez after poor defending by Arsenal, and then looked to be in complete control when Jordan Henderson walked in a second on the hour.
However, Arsenal suddenly burst into life as Olivier Giroud reduced the deficit with a close-range header and Theo Walcott then rattled in an equaliser. There were more chances at each end, but defeat for either side would have been an injustice.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers had recalled his regulars tonight, making seven changes from the side beaten at Oldham Athletic in the FA Cup on Sunday.
It was a bright start by the Reds. A slip by Bacary Sagna let Glen Johnson away down the left. His cross into the Arsenal penalty area was miskicked by Thomas Vermaelen and Wojciech Szczesny produced a good reaction save from Daniel Sturridge at the far post. Midfielder Aaron Ramsey failed to clear and the ball broke for Suarez, whose curling shot deflected off Per Mertesacker to wrongfoot the Arsenal goalkeeper.
Arsenal almost produced an immediate response as Walcott got ahead of Jamie Carragher, but his snapshot was saved well by Jose Reina. The match remained open, with Sturridge dragging an angled shot across the face of goal.
Arsenal also continued to press, and Reina was again called into action as he turned a curling effort from Walcott around the post. Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard produced some desperate defending as he hooked Lukas Podolski’s cross through the six-yard box behind.
The visitors, though, almost made it 2-0 on 27 minutes when Szczesny missed a corner from the left and Daniel Agger’s header was hacked off the line by Podolski.
Arsenal were forced into a change before half-time when Kieran Gibbs hobbled off and Andre Santos came on. Szczesny was almost caught out when rushing from his goal to close down Henderson on the left corner of the penalty area, but the Liverpool midfielder chipped the ball on to the roof of the net.
The home side came close to a leveller early in the second half when Podolski floated a pass from the left out to the far post, where Walcott arrived to head it just over. It proved a costly miss as Liverpool extended their lead on the hour.
Henderson battled past Santos and into the right side of the penalty area, before holding off two more defenders. As the ball bounced back off Santos from Ramsey’s clearance, he stabbed it past Szczesny.
Arsenal needed an immediate response, and got it after 64 minutes when Giroud planted a header into the far corner from Jack Wilshere’s right-wing free-kick. Before Liverpool could settle, the Gunners were level. Santi Cazorla worked the ball out on the right side of the penalty area to Giroud. His layoff teed up Walcott just outside the six-yard box and the England forward lashed an angled drive across Reina into the far corner.
Walcott curled a 20-yard effort just wide after running along the edge of the Liverpool box and then Mertesacker headed a free-kick from Wilshere just over at the near post. Reina saved at full stretch from Giroud as Arsenal looked for a late winner, with the Frenchman then scuffing an effort from close range.
Suarez saw a late strike turned away by Szczesny in stoppage time as a thrilling encounter finally ended all-square.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger: "It was a great football game where both teams went for it. It was entertainment. We could honestly have lost the game but could have won it by three or four goals difference.
"It shows we created many chances going forward but were nervous defensively. The goals we have conceded show we were nervous from the start. Overall we showed great quality in the offensive period.
"I believe recent history has an impact on the way we started the game. We have to get that out of our minds and focus on playing football and what we want to do to the opposition. The quality is there and we have to trust it and forget what happened in the past. What happened in the past, you could see it played in our heads at the start of the game."
"It is a big blow because Gibbs was an important player for us going forward and the game we want to play. It's a shame he's out for the next three weeks. The squad is top, top level. We have to learn to trust these players and keep faith with them."
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers: "It [signing Blackpool’s Thomas Ince] will be difficult now. We could still do the deal but it looks like one that is a bit too complicated at this stage. It's about affordability as well. If Tom stays at Blackpool it doesn't mean he won't join Liverpool at a later stage.
"There is an initial disappointment when you are 2-0 up but we knew Arsenal were going to have a spell. We could have had a few more goals but my overriding emotion is one of pride. Sunday [the FA Cup exit] was more my fault than theirs. I am a great believer in young players and I put a lot of trust in them. The problem is when I put them in and I don't have some of our big players, it's difficult. But I never had second thoughts about getting a reaction because these players have been brilliant."
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|28 Apr 2013||v Man Utd (H)|